We formulated policies and procedures for allied health professionals (AHPs) who provide services using telehealth in Nunavut, Canada's newest Arctic territory. These are a supplement to the clinical policies and procedures already established for Nunavut physicians and nurses. The services were in the areas of audiology, dietetics/nutrition, midwifery, occupational therapy, ophthalmic services, pharmacy, physiotherapy, psychology, respiratory therapy, social work and speech therapy. Documents specific to each of the services were developed, drawing on information from Government of Nunavut data, Nunavut healthcare providers and links made through the Internet. Topics included the scope and limitations of telehealth services, staff responsibilities, training and reporting, professional standards and cultural considerations. We also considered generic policies covering common issues such as jurisdiction, licensing and liability. The policies and procedures for AHPs will enhance and expand the successes already achieved with telehealth in Nunavut. The challenges are to balance the preferred approaches to service provision with the realities of health care and communications in an Arctic setting.
(1) Digital mammography can improve breast-image quality and storage through the digital capture of x-ray images. (2) Large comparative studies indicate that the overall accuracy of full-field digital mammography (FFDM) is similar to that of conventional filmscreen mammography (FSM). (3) Recent evidence suggests that FFDM is more accurate than FSM for diagnosing cancer in women younger than 50 years, those with dense breasts, and pre- or peri-menopausal women. (4) The costs of FFDM are higher than those for FSM. (5) The quality control of FFDM systems offers advantages compared to that of FSM, but it is more complex, and it is associated with a long learning curve.
OBJECTIVES: As an initiative of the International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment, an approach to assessment of telemedicine applications was prepared to assist decision makers who are considering introduction and use of this technology. METHODS: Review and commentary drawing on published assessment frameworks and reports of primary evaluations of telemedicine, with particular reference to experience in Finland and Canada. RESULTS: Elements of the approach included development of a business case (considering population and services, personnel and consumers, delivery arrangements, specifications and costs); subsequent evaluation of the telemedicine application; and follow-up (covering the domains of technical assessment, effectiveness, user assessment of the technology, costs of telemedicine, trials, economic evaluation methods, and sensitivity analysis). CONCLUSIONS: Decision makers should link introduction of new and often costly technology to appraisal of its feasibility, followed by evaluation of the application, including longer term consideration of its sustainability and impact on the healthcare system. As the effectiveness and efficiency of telemedicine applications will often be strongly influenced by local issues, results of assessments may not be generalizable.
An assessment was undertaken of a routine telepsychiatry service in rural areas of a Canadian province as a follow-up to a pilot telepsychiatry project. Over two years, there were 546 consultations at the five participating general hospitals, although the level of use varied considerably between them. Health professionals expressed high satisfaction with the service. While there were equipment problems in 17% of all consultations in the second year, they did not seem to affect acceptance of the technique. A cost analysis comparing consultations provided by a visiting psychiatrist and telepsychiatry found a break-even point of 348 consultations a year. However, when use of the videoconferencing network for administrative meetings was considered, the break-even point was 224 consultations a year, substantially below the actual utilization of telepsychiatry. Telepsychiatry appeared to result in increased access to community mental health services, suggesting future increased demand for these. From the perspective of health authorities and health professionals, telepsychiatry proved to be a useful and sustainable addition to existing mental health services.
We assessed a telepsychiatry pilot project in which a psychiatric hospital was linked with mental health clinics in five general hospitals. Information was collected through questionnaires administered to patients, service providers and psychiatric consultants, and by interviews. The technology was considered easy to use by participating health-care professionals and patients, and the quality of the sound and picture was adequate. Survey data suggested acceptance and satisfaction on the part of patients, service providers and psychiatric consultants. An economic analysis indicated that at 396 consultations per year the service cost the same as providing a travelling psychiatrist (C$610 per consultation); with more consultations, telepsychiatry was cheaper. Information gathered during the evaluation suggested that the use of videoconferencing for psychiatric consultations was a viable option for an integrated, community-based mental health service.
The possible adverse consequences of osteoporosis, particularly hip fractures, are a considerable health concern that is particularly relevant for elderly women. Bone density measurement is a method to assess bone mineral that has grown rapidly in recent years in both Sweden and Australia. The types of technologies adopted, their location and their level of use reflect the characteristics of the different health care systems, health technology assessments and policies adopted by health authorities. The health policy issues related to use of these technologies are complex and include consideration of who should be examined and treated, potential risks and benefits, machine performance, patient compliance and evidence of benefit.
To provide information to health authorities and others on the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT) and the impact on health services should an additional HBOT facility be established in the provincial health care system.
A literature review on the clinical use of HBOT was conducted, drawing on MEDLINE, EMBASE, and HealthSTAR. For each of 13 conditions, the effectiveness of HBOT was assessed, with reference to a widely used classification of level of evidence. Cost implications were considered for each condition for which there was sufficient evidence of effectiveness. The perspective was that of the payer.
Good evidence of effectiveness exists for HBOT for four conditions and HBOT is established as the clinical standard of care for two others. Available evidence did not support the routine use of HBOT for a further seven indications. An additional 59-87 patients per year would be eligible for HBOT if a second facility were established in the province. Improvement in quality of life could be expected for 30-60 persons per year. A new facility would result in identified additional annual expenditure of $108,000. Capital costs could exceed $600,000.
On the basis of the available evidence on benefits and costs to routine health care, there did not seem to be a particularly strong case for establishing a second HBOT center in the province. Following the assessment, the health authority made a decision not to provide funding for this additional service.
A collaborative study was undertaken by members of the International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA). The evidence of the effectiveness of bone density measurement and selected treatments in preventing fractures in later life was reviewed. There was fair evidence that bone density measurement can predict risk of fractures and that hormone replacement therapy and intranasal salmon calcitonin preserve bone mass and decrease the risk of fractures. However, it was estimated that only 1-7% of hip fractures would be prevented if these technologies were used in a screening program for menopausal women. Results of the assessment were endorsed by 13 INAHTA members, disseminated widely and provided input to policy and further work in this area. The project demonstrated the feasibility of international collaborative health technology assessment.
AquaFlow TM is an absorbable collagen implant for use in non-penetrating surgery for primary open angle glaucoma. Its purpose is to facilitate drainage of fluid from the eye, thereby reducing intraocular pressure. AquaFlow TM is approved for use in Canada in medically refractory cases of primary open angle glaucoma. Non-penetrating glaucoma surgery with the AquaFlow TM implant appears to be a relatively safe procedure. However, there is a steep learning curve for the surgeon and it is initially associated with a high rate of conversion to conventional surgery during the operation. Limited evidence from small non-randomized trials suggests that the AquaFlow TM implant may offer benefits over conventional surgical approaches in terms of reduced complication rates, reduced medication use, an earlier return of improved vision and sustained control of intraocular pressure. However, the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of this approach have not been established. January, 2001 for use in patients with uncontrolled
A pilot project to provide advice on new and emerging medical technologies to decision makers in a provincial health care system was undertaken by a health technology assessment (HTA) program. Briefs were prepared on technologies which were not yet available in the province and which might have a significant impact on health care. These were sent to the ministry of health and regional health authorities and made available through the agency's website. Reaction to the briefs was sought from decision makers. Decision makers in the health ministry and health authorities found the briefs helpful, and wished to continue receiving them. They had made limited use of them for planning purposes, but the briefs provided useful input to further consideration of technologies in several cases. Within the HTA program, the briefs and the process that produced them were valuable in increasing awareness of new health technologies that might require assessment in future. This pilot project demonstrated the feasibility of providing timely advice on emerging health technologies within a provincial health system. However, while decision makers found the information provided to be useful, this had not yet been integrated with provincial health care planning. Necessary machinery within policy areas and communication with the HTA process appear to be in need of development.